Three times now, the Creed franchise has proven that they’re not only worthy sequels to the Rocky series, they’ve arguably exceeded expectations. Creed III continues that run, managing to give you a logical sequel to Creed II, while also pulling influences from both Rocky III and, interestingly, Rocky V. It’s a remix of the format in a manner that many won’t expect, but results in a film that suggests there’s plenty of life in these boxing tales yet.
Creed III is not just one of the better sequels in the franchise, it’s a coming out party for star Michael B. Jordan as a director. Sure, it also marks the official exit for Sylvester Stallone from what was initially the Rocky movies, but it’s charting its own path. His lack of a presence would have sank a lesser flick, but here, while he would have been welcome, it does feel like they made a good choice for the future, with potentially more installments still to come.
Before we reunite with Adonis Creed (Jordan), we flashback to his younger days. It introduces us to his friendship with Damian Anderson, or Dame, who was among the most promising young fighters in the country. One run-in with the cops later and Dame is in prison, while Adonis has gotten off unscathed. Back in the present, Creed has unified the titles and retired, opting to become a high-profile promoter, working out of the gym run by Tony ‘Little Duke’ Burton (Wood Harris). They have a champion in Feliz Chavez (Jose Benavidez) and are preparing for a mega fight with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Then, Dame (Jonathan Majors) shows up.
Adonis is happy to see Dame, but also a bit wary. Dame is looking for his own redemption, and despite not wanting money from his now wealthy friend, he does want a shot at a title. Adonis claims it’s impossible, but it eats at him, which his wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) notices. While Dame is warm to the Creed’s, including their precocious young daughter Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). Driven to help by a sense of guilt, it turns out to be letting a fox into the henhouse. Eventually, Dame is a force driven by revenge, forcing Adonis to settle things with him, where else, but in the ring…
Michael B. Jordan continues to be quite good in this role, but Jonathan Majors walks away with the movie. Jordan is playing a little older than he normally does, but he interestingly lets the years weigh on him. Three movies in, he’s still allowing us to learn more about the character. Majors, however, is the best antagonist since Apollo, having a great point and arguably being largely in the right. The intensity, as well as the surprising pathos and vulnerability, make him as interesting to follow as our protagonist. The other highlight is Mila Davis-Kent, who has such spunk. More of her in the sequels, please and thank you. Tessa Thompson is a reliably presence, bouncing off of Jordan with terrific chemistry.. Other players include the aforementioned Jose Benavidez, Wood Harris, and Florian Munteanu, as well as Tony Bellew, Selenis Leyva, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Spence Moore II, and more, alongside the return of Phylicia Rashad.
Putting on his directorial hat, Michael B. Jordan steps behind the camera to make his filmmaking debut. Working with a script from Zach Baylin and Keenan Coogler (Creed filmmaker Ryan Coogler retains a story by credit), Jordan finds a new angle to these stories, while utilizing a visual flair to liven up the fight scenes. In particular, the impressionistic take he has on part of the final fight is a notable change. At the same time, the training montage just isn’t quite the same. Still, it’s an impressive debut. There are two moments where a Stallone cameo would have made complete sense, but they’re clearly doing their own thing now with the story, and given the results, it’s hard to argue.
Creed III suggests a potential new path for this franchise. I would be shocked if they stopped here, especially since Jordan has fully made this his own thing. He’s got the goods, the story still has untold possibilities, and the series has its most intriguing antagonist since the original Apollo Creed. That’s a winning formula if ever there was one.